When the first trailer dropped for the cinematic adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, I was stoked to see Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey playing the Gunslinger and The Man in Black, respectively. However, not even the star power of these two can save this film from its glaringly obvious mistakes throughout. From pacing issues, to a sheer lack of character development, the film is underwhelming at best, despite some fantastic action sequences.
“The film boasts stunning visuals, powerful cinematic scope, and some phenomenal action sequences.”
Based on a series of books by the same name, The Dark Tower follows Roland Deschain (Elba), a Gunslinger who is charged with defending The Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. The Man in Black (McConaughey) is hellbent on destroying The Dark Tower, and unleashing darkness upon all worlds. Caught in the middle of this feud, Tom Taylor’s portrayal of Jake Chambers finds himself having dreams of the Gunslinger and the Man in Black, before deciding to help the former in his quest to destroy the latter. Directed by Nikolaj Arcel, famous for his screenplay work on 2009’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the film boasts stunning visuals, powerful cinematic scope, and some phenomenal action sequences featuring Elba as the Gunslinger.
It was always going to be a point of contention as to how Arcel would manage to fit in eight books worth of content into a film that only lasts 95 minutes. It was a tall order, but all the ingredients were all there to make it a quality film. Idris Elba brings the dark, brooding nature to the Gunslinger that makes him a reluctant hero you end up rooting for, and Matthew McConaughey has the calibre and acting chops to bring some serious Oscar talent to the villainous role of the Man in Black. Whilst Elba shines in this role, McConaughey is often reduced to nothing more than a pantomime villain with some witty one-liners. Despite the potential to be truly menacing, with dark magic and the ability to stop someone breathing simply by telling them to do so, I struggled to take the Man in Black seriously given his entirely black outfit and spiked up black hair. Tom Taylor’s performance as Jake Chambers starts out as the central character but quickly becomes nothing more than a sidepiece in what is essentially Gunslinger vs Man in Black for the remainder of the film.
“One can’t help but wonder if this film would have been better suited to a franchise, or at the very least, a slightly longer running time.”
The characters in the film vary in development. Both Roland and Jake have lost their true fathers, so expect some bonding on that topic. The Man in Black, as has been mentioned, floats in and out of scenes with no real purpose other than to find children who could bring down the Dark Tower. There’s not much backstory to who he is, other than a dark magician who wants to plunge the world into darkness. The tone of the film also varies, with moments of fleeting humour and moments which try to be deep and meaningful. Sadly, due to the lack of time this film gives most characters or their development, many of these moments are lost within the fast pace of the film. One can’t help but wonder if this film would have been better suited to a franchise, or at the very least, a slightly longer running time.
Despite all of this, that’s not to say there’s no redeeming qualities to The Dark Tower. As previously mentioned, Idris Elba shines as Roland, bringing the right amount of brooding and badass to make the Gunslinger a memorable onscreen character. The fight scenes are tremendously well-choreographed, utilising CGI effectively to portray the darkness and the demons well on the big screen. The finale is superbly choreographed, making full use of the Gunslinger’s pistols and the Man in Black’s magical abilities to create a jaw-dropping fight scene between Roland and hordes of enemies.
Despite two stellar actors in lead roles and awesome fight sequences, the film suffers with pacing issues, under-development of characters and plot, as well as lacking emotion throughout, falling well short of expectations.